- Backflushing – Backflushing is a process done to espresso machines to clean them: a filter basket with no holes (a “blank” basket) is inserted into the portafilter so that when the machine is activated, pressurized water cannot escape and is instead forced back into the machine to “flush” it. Often, backflushing is done with some type of coffee cleaning detergent in the basket.
A typical backflushing protocol is to put coffee cleaner in the blank basket and backflush 5 times, then rinse the cleaner out and backflush 5 times without no cleaner.
Note that not all machines can be backflushed.
- Baggy – Coffees that are held for too long run the risk of this taint. Essentially the coffee comes to absorb the flavors of whatever it is stored in – usually the burlap or jute bag. Many times a darker roast on these coffees will conceal this taint. Baggy flavors are the result of several factors: the fats in the coffee absorbing the smell of burlap, the loss in moisture content as the coffee ages, and other chemical changes. For some origins theses changes in flavor can emerge in 1 year, 9 months, even 6 months for some decafs
- Baked – Baked flavor happens in under-roasted coffees haven’t developed their character, or coffees that simply sat in the roaster too long without enough heat. It can also happen to scorched coffees where the outside of the bean is browned and the inside is under-roasted. Flavors are typically astringent, grain-like, sour, and body is thin and possibly gritty.
- Balance – Balance is both an obvious and slippery taste term. It implies a harmony and proportion of qualities, and perhaps a mild character since no one quality dominates. Balance can exist between aromatics, flavors, textural sensations, and aftertaste, or between competing flavors. Bittersweet is a term that implies a balance of 2 basic sapid flavors.
- Bali – Coffee from the Indonesian island of Bali was formerly sold exclusively to the Japanese market. Perhaps it is the changing face of world economics that finds the first exports of Balinese coffee arriving under exclusive contract in the U.S.
The coffees are sophisticated and well-prepared. They are washed (wet-processed) like neighboring coffees from Java, East Timor and Papua New Guinea. The cup has traces of the earthy Indonesian island character, but only in the background. It is a classic, clean cup with great body and mildness!
- Basic Flavors – In the mouth sensations derived from the basic flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, savory (umami). These are the core sensations that can be experienced without the input of the olfactory, through the papilla located in taste buds on the tongue.
- Batch – One of the most important variables in roasting coffee, the weight or volume of the coffee being put in to the roaster will dramatically effect the outcome of the roast. A good scale or the right scoop is a must when deciding what size batches to use as different coffees have varying densities and bean sizes. In using air roasters batches must be carefully measured by volume. In using drum roasters batches must be carefully weighed.
- Batian– Named after the highest peak on Mt. Kenya, Batian is resistant to coffee berry disease and coffee leaf rust, the two common fungal diseases affecting coffee in Kenya and much of Africa. The parentage of Batian is predominantly arabica, and it is closer genetically to the well-regarded SL28 and SL34 varieties than Ruiru 11, the rust-resistant varietal introduced in 1985. Varieties used in the development of Batian include SL4, N39, N30, Hibrido de Timor, Rume Sudan, and K7. They were repeatedly backcrossed with SL28 and SL34. The Hibrido de Timor is the naturally-occurring hybrid of arabica and robusta, and is often used in disease-resistant breeding due to its robusta heritage.
- Beneficio – In Latin American countries, a wet mill is called a Beneficio, where fresh coffee cherries are brought for pulping, fermentation, and drying. In Rwanda and some other African countries it is a “washing station”. In Kenya it is a “coffee factory”.
- Bergamot – Bergamot orange is used to scent Earl Grey tea, in perfumery and confection baking. It is the size of an orange, with a yellow color similar to a lemon, and has a pleasant fragrance. The juice tastes less sour than lemon, but more bitter than grapefruit. It is only grown commercially in Calabria Italy
- Bergendal – Bergendal is found less and less frequently in Aceh, Sumatra. It is a low-producing plant of Typica origins. Much of the Typica was lost in the late 1880s, when Coffee Leaf Rust swept through Indonesia. However, both the Bergendal and Sidikalang varieties of Typica can still be found in More remote areas. It is possible the name derives from Berg und Tal, ” hill and valley.”
- Bitter Sweetness is one of four basic sapid (in the mouth) tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter and Umami (savory flavors). While most would say bitterness is undesirable, coffee has essential bitterness to it. Most undesirable bitterness is formed by roasting defects (flash roasting, or slow baking of the coffee), too-light roast (astringent, trigonelline bitterness) or dark roasting (burned roast taste, no remaining sucrose). Another bitterness is experienced from the rancid oils and residues of dirty brewing equipment. There are many types of bitterness, hence not one avenue to tracking down its source. Bitterness as a positive quality is balanced with residual sweetness, and we use the term bittersweet or bittersweetness to describe this, as in darker chocolate flavors.
- Bittersweet – Bittersweet is from the language of chocolate, and describes the co-presence of positive bittering compounds balanced by sweetness. It is directly related to caramelization, but has inputs from other roast reactions, as well as bittering flavors such as trigonelline. Bittersweet is usually a roast flavor term, but is always specific to the green coffee too (good bittersweetness would not develop at any roast level in a coffee without the native compounds to engender it). Usually, bittersweetness of a coffee develops as the roast gets darker and eventually overpowers other flavors. It dark roasts, acidity is reduced, while the caramely taste of sugars form the stimulating bittersweetness.
- Black Bean – A coffee bean whose interior is totally back (endosperm), due to fungi, mold, yeast, pest. This happens with over-mature coffee cherry where the bean falls to the ground and is attacked by the Colletotrichum coffeeeanum fungus, or other aforementioned problem. Overfermentation of mature cherries can also result in back beans due to mold and yeast attack. Full black beans score 1 full defect point in coffee grading (the worst type of defect). Black beans will resist roasting and have a very harsh, acrid flavor
- Blackberry – Blackberry is found as a fragrance, aroma or flavor in some coffees. I find that it is less obvious at very light roast levels, such as City roast, and is more pronounced at City+ to Full City. It might be found in a wide range of origins, from Rwanda and Kenya, to Guatemala and Colombia. Mora is the blackberry found in Latin America, and is a slightly different plant than what we call blackberry in North America.
- Blade Grinder – The standard home coffee grinder, which works by way of a high-speed rotating blade. Blade grinders are inexpensive, but this comes at the expense of accuracy: grounds from a blade grinder are substantially less even than those from a burr grinder. Still, they are durable and when paired with the right brew method (especially those that use paper filters) they are quite acceptable. Don’t knock the blade mill! It keeps people grinding coffee fresh, right before brewing, which makes a huge difference in the coffee aromatics.
- Blended Coffee – A blend is a mixture of coffees from multiple origins. Coffees are typically blended to produce a more balanced cup. Here at County Rd Coffee, almost all of the blends you’ll see are made with espresso in mind.
- Blue Mountain Cultivar A C. Arabica Var. – Typical coffee that shares other features of Typica plants, but also shows some resistance to CBD: Coffee Berry Disease. It is said to be grown in Papua New Guinea but pure lots have not been found, and we buy a small lot of this cultivar from a plot in Kona, Hawaii each year.
- Body – Associated with and sensed by mouthfeel, body is sense of weight and thickness of the brew, caused by the percentage of soluble solids in the cup, including all organic compounds that are extracted from brewing and end up in the cup. Body refers usually to thick or thin, heavy or light, full-bodied or watery. Mouthfeel is used to describe a much broader range of characteristics and textures.
- Bold – Historically, Bold is a vague marketing term sometimes used to describe a darker roast. In our coffee reviews, use Bold as the highest level of intensity in our simple scale, and aggressive flavor profile. It does not mean a better cup than mild, delicate coffees.
- Bolivia – There’s no better way to learn about a coffee-producing country than to go there! Bolivia has always been a coffee origin with great potential, the potential to have a unique Specialty coffee offering with unique cup character. Bolivia has all the ingredients to produce great coffee, especially in terms of altitude (plenty of that!) and seedstock: the plants are almost all traditional Typica varietal, with some Caturra. Much of the production is traditional Organic farming practice, with a lot of the co-ops certified Organic and some Fair Trade also. Germany and Holland have been buying these coffees heavily for years
- Bottomless Portafilter – An espresso portafilter with the bottom machined off so the bottom of the filter basket is exposed. Bottomless portafilters allow you to view distribution problems and channeling: if the flow is uneven across the bottom of the filter basket, the distribution of grounds in the basket is uneven.
- Bourbon – Bourbon, along with Typica, are main Coffea Arabica cultivars. Bourbon was developed by the French on the island of Bourbon, now Reunion, in the India Ocean near Africa. The seeds were sold to the French by the British East India Company from Aden, Yemen, and were planted in 1708. After generations, it began to express unique characteristics and became more robust. Bourbon has slightly higher yields and is more robust than Typica in general. It has a broader leaf and rounder cherry (and green bean) than Typica, a conical tree form, and erect branches. It has many local variants and sub-types, including Tekisic, Jackson, Arusha, and the Kenya SL types. In general, Bourbon can have excellent cup character. The cherry ripens quickly, but is at risk from wind and hard rain. It is susceptible to major coffee diseases. Bourbon grows best at altitudes between 1100 – 2000 MASL. Bourbon coffees should have green tips (new leaves) whereas Typicas should have bronze-to-copper tips.
- Bourbon Mayaguez – A Bourbon cultivar variant from Rwanda and Burundi, from the early part of the 20th century. Bourbon coffees are named for the island in the India Ocean where French colonists grew it.
- Brazil – Brazil is a coffee giant . As Frank Sinatra sang, “they grow an awful lot of coffee in Brazil”. It’s the largest producer of low grade arabica coffee, and a lot of Conilon robusta too. Brazil: there is some in almost every espresso you drink. In fact, some espresso is 90% Brazil. And there is Brazil in most canned coffee and big roasters’ blends.
But things are changing in Brazil. There’s the big push on behalf of Brazilian coffee growing associations to re-create the image of Brazilian as exquisite and distinctive Specialty-level coffee. And some of it is true Specialty coffee, but the majority is still common, low-grade, low-grown arabica. There just isn’t the extreme distinction from cup to cup that distinguishes one regional coffee from another. Attention to good farming and processing techniques has helped, but the coffee is grown at lower altitudes than most Specialty coffee, in non-volcanic soils, in non-forested areas that are sometimes originally grassland (a reason why the “shade-grown issue” really doesn’t apply much to Brazil —the coffee farming areas had little shade to begin with.)
Am I saying Brazilian coffee is bad –heck no! I love these high-quality Brazilian coffees, and you should try it as a Full City or even Vienna roast: its great! And nothing touches a really good Dry-processed or Pulped-Natural Brazil as a base in Espresso blends. They produce more crema and body, adding sweetness and providing a great backdrop for the feature coffees. Brazil can be nutty, sweet, low-acid, and develop exceptional bittersweet and chocolate roast tastes. The caveat is, Brazils are not dense coffee seeds: they are grown at lower altitudes than Central American coffees. Hence the very dark roasts of Brazils pick up ashy, bittering flavors. For espresso, you can roast Brazils lighter, separately, or keep the entire blend at a Vienna roast or lighter: Northern Italian Espresso re: Illy’s “Normale.” Note that there are 3 processes of processing Brazil coffees of interest to us; Natural Dry- Process, Pulped Natural, and Semi-Washed. They produce different types of cups. The Natural has great body, chocolate, possibly fruity notes … and it risks being earthier and more rustic in the cup. The Pulped Natural is when the coffee cherry skin is removed and the parchment, with a lot of the mucilage attached, is sun dried on patio or raised drying bed. This coffee cups like the fully Naturals but is a bit cleaner in the cup. The Semi-Washed uses a demucilage machine to remove the skin and some or all of the mucilage. So the Semi-Washed ranges in character from being identical to Pulped Natural to being similar to a Wet-processed coffee (clean cup, uniform, less body, less chocolate, a bit brighter). I like good Naturals- they have more intensity, produce more crema, but I have to cup them rigorously to watch for defective cup character. On the other end of things, really clean Semi-Washed, where a lot of the mucilage is removed, do not have Brazil character to me
- Brazil Coffee Grades – Brazil has it’s own grading system for defects. There is a size and physical defect grade, as well as a flavor defect grade. The Brazil flavor grading rates coffee as Strictly Soft (the best), Soft, ‘Soft-ish’, Hard (+1, +2), Riado, Rioy, Rio Zona (the worst).
- Break In coffee cupping, the “breaking of the crust” of floating grounds, part of aromatic evaluation. You add water to the coffee grounds, filling the cup, and wait 4 minutes. At this point there is still a crust of floating coffee grinds. You put your nose right above the cup and “break” this crust by stirring it with the spoon. The grinds sink, and the coffee can be tasted anywhere from 5-15 minutes after the break.
- Brewed Coffee – Brewed Coffee refers to all coffee preparations produced by adding non-pressurized water to coffee grounds. Contrasted with espresso coffee, which is produced under pressure, brewed coffee is primarily an extraction, and contains a lower amount of total dissolved solids (TDS) and has thinner body.
- Brightness – A euphemistic term to describe acidity in coffee. A bright coffee has more high, acidic notes. Not to be confused with the brighter roast flavors of light roast levels, such as City to City+ roasts. Read more about acidity to understand its use as a flavor term, not in reference to the quantity of acidity in coffee.
- Brown Sugar – Brown sugar is a type of sweetness found in coffee …a sweetness characterized by a hint of molasses, yet quite refined as well. Since Brown sugar of the common type is highly refined (made by recombining molasses with refined white sugar) it makes sense that it’s qualities are only mildly rustic. One might distinguish between mild light brown sugar and dark brown types.
- Burlap Bags – Burlap bags are the traditional container in which coffee is transmitted. Burlap is cheap, but long storage in burlap bags may result in a characteristic “baggy” defect taste.
- Burnt – Burnt flavors in coffee are the result of over-roasting, fast roasting, or roasting in a high-heat environment. This often occurs when the initial roaster temperature when the green coffee is introduced is too high. Usually, scorching and tipping result in burnt flavors. Sometimes, smokey notes in a cup can be a result of native qualities to the coffee, and not necessarily a defect, or the result of an exotic process such as a Monsooned or Aged coffee.
- Burr Grinder – A coffee grinder that grinds by passing a flow of beans between a pair of rotating metal discs. The distance between the discs is adjustable, and this adjustment allows one to accurately set the size of the grind.
The larger the diameter of the burrs, the faster the grinder is able to grind. Burr grinders can be either “conical” or “flat” burred, each with their own advantages. Ironically, both the cheapest and the most expensive espresso grinders have conical burrs, while mid-range burr grinders and commercial bulk coffee grinders have flat burrs.
Grinders can also be divided into “doser” and “doser-less” models: a doser is a mechanism for dosing ground coffee into a portafilter for espresso. Doser models may be more convenient for espresso, but are more difficult to use when grinding coffee into a container for brewed coffee.
- Burundi – Burundi coffee bears striking resemblance to neighboring Rwanda, in both cup character, but also the culture surrounding coffee. Burundi is a small landlocked country at the crossroads of East and Central Africa, straddling the crest of Nile-Congo watershed. Sandwiched between Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, Burundi has beautiful Lake Tanganyika for much of its western border. This is a country dominated by hills and mountains, with considerable altitude variation, from the lowest point at 772 meters (Lake Tanganyika)to the top of Mount Heha at 2670 MASL.
The first arabica coffee tree in Burundi was introduced by the Belgians in the early 1930s and has been growing in the country ever since. Coffee cultivation is an entirely small holder based activity with over 800.000 families directly involved in coffee farming with a total acreage of 60.000 hectares in the whole country with about 25 millions of coffee tree.
- Buttery – Buttery is primarily a mouthfeel description indicating thickness and creaminess.
It indicates a high level of lipids (fats) in the coffee, often. Buttery can also be a flavor description, or a combination of both mouthfeel and flavor